< /əˈdæp ʃən/. Sociology. a slow, usually unconscious modification of individual and social activity in adjustment to cultural surroundings.


  1. the act or process of adapting or the state of being adapted; adjustment
  2. something that is produced by adapting something else
  3. something that is changed or modified to suit new conditions or needs
  4. biology an inherited or acquired modification in organisms that makes them better suited to survive and reproduce in a particular environment
  5. physiol the decreased response of a sense organ to a repeated or sustained stimulus
  6. psychol (in learning theory) the weakening of a response to a stimulus with repeated presentation of the stimulus without reinforcement; applied mainly to innate responses
  7. social welfare alteration to a dwelling to make it suitable for a disabled person, as by replacing steps with ramps

c.1600, “action of adapting,” from French adaptation, from Late Latin adaptationem (nominative adaptatio), noun of action from past participle stem of adaptare (see adapt). Meaning “condition of being adapted” is from 1670s. Sense of “modification of a thing to suit new conditions” is from 1790. Biological sense first recorded 1859 in Darwin’s writings.


  1. The acquisition of modifications in an organism that enable it to adjust to life in a new environment.
  2. An advantageous change in the function or constitution of an organ or tissue to meet new physiological conditions.
  3. Adjustment of the pupil and retina to varying degrees of illumination.
  4. A property of certain receptors through which they become less responsive or cease to respond to repeated or continued stimuli of constant intensity.
  5. The fitting, condensing, or contouring of a restorative dental material to a tooth or cast.
  6. The dynamic process in which the behavior and physiological mechanisms of an individual continually change to adjust to variations in living conditions.

  1. A change in structure, function, or behavior by which a species or individual improves its chance of survival in a specific environment. Adaptations develop as the result of natural selection operating on random genetic variations that are capable of being passed from one generation to the next. Variations that prove advantageous will tend to spread throughout the population.

The changes made by living systems in response to their environment. Heavy fur, for example, is one adaptation to a cold climate.

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